|Pick your clothing and first event - wisely!|
If you're reading this, the chances are you might be interested in giving yourself a challenge next year. How about a triathlon? Interested? Here's some Top Tips of things to consider:
"Where can I get some help?"
Join a Tri Club as this will give you easy access to other like-minded people. Some people have said this sounds a bit scary, joining a club where everyone else is going to be so much fitter than the newbie. Almost certainly you'll find many people there who are friendly and always remember everyone has started at the most basic level. Chances are you'll find some expert coaches who can really help improve your technique in the pool or on the bike, as well as your running form.
Tri Clubs are often based in existing sports clubs, swimming pools etc. By joining, you will probably get easy or cost effective access to a swimming pool, or perhaps a gym. Don't simply join the first club you check out unless you're completely sure it's for you.
"Spend money wisely"
It is easy to spend a fortune on kit, especially a for triathlete needing to run, swim and ride a bicycle. Make sure you buy the things you actually need, not things that might look fashionable or trendy - some find it very easy to get carried away.
For many people, the most cost-effective approach is to strike the right balance with price and quality. For example, you can run in a cheap pair of trainers but you could easily become injured through having the wrong shoe that isn't made for your footfall. At the opposite end of the scale, do you really need that top-of-the-range shoe if you're just starting out? Be realistic, take advice, buy what you actually need.
"Do I have to spend thousands on a new Tri bike?"
In a word "NO" you don't. Tri bikes are obviously designed and built for triathlons but they are not absolutely essential. A decent road bike (which you might already own) should be fast and comfortable enough for being in the saddle for a few hours. Road bikes are fine for starting out, nobody should frown on this at all.
Perhaps once you have a few good events under you're belt and you're still improving, that could be the time to consider a Tri bike.
"What are the distances?"
There are different kinds of distances according to the type of marathon event. They include:
Sprint: swim 750 metre, cycle 40k, run 5k
Standard (Olympic): swim 1.5k, cycle 40K, run 10k
Long (half Ironman): swim 1.9k, cycle 90k, run 21k (a half marathon)
Ultra (Ironman): swim 3.8k, cycle 180k, run 42k (a full marathon)
Sometimes people are under the impression that all triathlons are actually Ironman i.e. the full works and where only the fittest of the elite can possibly take part. Sure, to do an Ironman you have to be extremely fit and well trained, plus have a natural talent and have the outstanding commitment. And yet, looking at a Sprint or an Olympic length marathon, could these be looking a little more possible? Maybe? Why not?
"What clothing do I need for swimming?"
In open sea races, you'll probably need a wetsuit. The material thickness will depend on how much insulation is required according to the temperature. Alternatives include the "shorty" or "triathlon suit" or "tri suit" which don't cover the legs - these then are easier when it comes to jumping out of the water and straight onto a bike.
The really important thing is to get one that fits properly and it's where going to a decent shop is going to take all the uncertainty away. If your Tri suit is too big, it will be like having an under water parachute around you and this will sap your energy, as well as slowing you down considerably. If it's too small you will have restricted movement and anyone seeing you try to take it off will laugh their socks off.
"You mentioned shops…."
Finding a store where everything trialthon is under one roof is very helpful and well worth tracking one down. As you become more known the staff will understand what you need in terms of advice and kit, plus they'll be willing to share their own experiences - they're often rightly proud of their own achievements and it's natural to share these with others!
If you live in the northwest, shops like Eureka are specialist suppliers and natural meeting places for other triathletes as well (there's a 77 year old cafe there, a natural meeting place)
"Do I train at all three disciplines together?"
In general, yes. Yes but do these on different days of the week. For example, you could swim on a Monday, Run on a Tuesday, take a rest on Wednesday, bike on Thursday. Many keep the weekends for long endurance bike rides or runs. The different disciplines use different muscles in different ways, so it's a good idea to allow them to rest while you do something different. Doing something different could also include using a cross-trainer in a gym - this still provides good cardio exercise without pounding your joints. Plan actual rest days as well - if you don't you'll probably get an injury at one stage.
"When I be ready to enter a race?"
It is probably a good idea to sign up for a race straight away, to get something in your diary. Aim for an event which is in about 6 months time. t makes sense to go for a Sprint distance (unless you're superbly good). Myself, I always seem to train better if I have an event in my calendar - its something to aim for, something to motivate me.